A mural in First Street Green Art Park taking aim at illegal hotel operators has been vandalized for a second time since local residents began creating it in early May.
On June 27, the residents of East 1st Street, affordable housing activists and local elected officials rallied in the park to raise awareness about short-term, commercially operated apartment rentals through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. The mural was defaced while they were working on it, and then again the piece was completed.
“On both occasions,” the activists stated in a press release, the “mural was the only artwork in the First Street Green Art Park to be hit by the vandal,” adding that their messages, “about the negative impact of short-term rentals on the community, as well as information on what tenants can do if they believe an illegal hotel, is being operated in their building, were intentionally obscured.”
Earlier this month, the New York City Council unanimously approved legislation requiring home sharing firms to turn over information about their hosts to city regulators. It is illegal to rent most apartments in New York City for less than 30 days unless the host is present. Community activists have long argued that short-term rentals are a major threat to New York’s dwindling stock of affordable apartments.
According to the press release, which was put out by the Cooper Square Committee, tenants are preparing a response to the vandals. A short documentary was made about their mural project.
Tom DiFerdinando, a member of the 43 East 1st Street Tenants Association said, “Commercial illegal hotel operators and ‘superhosts’ who flout City and State law to warehouse affordable apartments and race to rent them out to short-term guests for inflated nightly rates are just a new face to this age-old issue. The elimination of rent-stabilized and other affordable housing units, and the wholesale commodification of entire buildings, streets and neighborhoods, is not business as usual, it is anti-business as usual. It does not lift NYC, it deflates and fatigues it.”
The press release included statements from City Council member Carlina Rivera (who sponsored the recent legislation), City Council member Margaret Chin, State Assembly member Deborah Glick and State Assembly member Harvey Epstein.
While the vandalism was reported to police, there’s no indication as of yet who defaced the First Street mural.